If you’re the kind of traveler who craves cozy weather, we’ve officially crossed over into autumn! And with fall comes all sorts of cool stuff – pumpkin spice everything, the turning of leaves and our favorite – harvest season.
All over the country there’s festivals celebrating local food, culture and traditions. Choose your own fall adventure – here’s a few of our top picks!
Hood River Valley Harvest Fest
Hood River, Oregon
For a one-stop shop, The Hood River Valley Harvest Festival ticks all the boxes. The festival encompasses apple cideries, wineries, lots of other local produce from pear, pumpkin and flower farmers, and local artisans. Live events include a pumpkin carving contest and exhibition, local music and fruit pie-eating contests. Youngsters will love the kids’ activity area, which includes a rock wall, bouncy houses, face painting and other activities.
Sever’s Fall Festival
There are many fall festivals all over the Midwest, but if you’re searching for a true all-American festival to usher in autumn, the Sever’s Fall Festival offers our favorite themed corn maze (this year it’s “Under the Sea,”), a ginormous pumpkin patch where you can pick a pumpkin for just .49/lb, magic shows, pig races for the kids, and a variety of concessions (including the Canterbury Pub which sells all the adult bevvies). Shakopee is about 30 miles outside of Minneapolis – the perfect distance for a short daytrip.
North Carolina Pecan Harvest Festival
Whiteville, North Carolina
The NC Pecan Harvest Festival celebrates the annual harvest of the pecan crop and showcases local artisans as well. A full schedule of events includes a cooking contest, a car show, boat show, kids pavilion, food vendors and live music. It’s a North Carolina must, though if you had hopes of attending this year you’re out of luck. Hurricane Florence damage put the festival out of business this year, but they’ll be back in business next year on November 2, 2019.
While there’s no shortage of Oktoberfest celebrations around the country, the Leavenworth festivities have our vote for “Best of” for overall family-friendly fun! Take the littles to Kinderplatz, which is an area full of climbing walls and bouncy toys, and other kid-centric activities. There are four venues with live entertainment (Bavarian bands from Germany are brought in every year to join local bands) and shuttles to and from the location so that driving isn’t an issue. In terms of dining? It’s beer and brats taking center stage (as it should be).
New Hampshire Pumpkin Festival
Laconia, New Hampshire
Come to have your mind blown by the iconic jack o’lantern tower, stay for the good vibes. Laconia expects 40,000+ visitors this year and that 34’ tower is truly a sight to see when it’s lit up at night! Horse-drawn hay rides, a Kids Zone, a bungee jump and 5/10K are just a few of the many other events to partake in. There’s even a car show! Laconia is about 90 minutes from the Portland airport – if you want to truly immerse yourself in autumn, there’s no better place!
Kona Coffee Cultural Festival
Who loves coffee? Who loves Hawaii? That’s right. A better question would be who doesn’t? The Kona Coffee Cultural Festival is a perfect storm of coffee-loving goodness in the heart of some of the best coffee plantations in the world. The festival celebrates growers and the pioneers who brought coffee to the islands with a wide-ranging schedule of fun events including farm tours, a marathon, a lantern parade, and art exhibits. There are also various barista competitions – best latte, best espresso, etc. With true Hawaiian quirk, the festival is bookended with a bowling party.
Trailing of the Sheep Festival
Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey, Idaho
Sheep ranching and herding is the focus of this unique festival, which has been celebrating herding culture in the west for 22 years with all of the attendant “sheepish” activities. A parade, classes in wool crafting and cooking, sheep dog trials, and a culinary fest featuring local chefs cooking lamb specialties will entertain and delight!
For inexpensive fall destination ideas, take a look at our Affordable Family Destinations post.